11 August 2020

Taking the long view: Policing into 2040

A new report has been published which aims to encourage and support long term planning within policing.

'Policing in England and Wales: Future Operating Environment 2040' (FOE 2040) is a 'futures' report which describes how policing's operating environment might change over the next 20 years. It aims to encourage thinking and debate about what policing might need to do now to prepare for a range of possible future outcomes.

FOE 2040 draws on the latest edition of the Ministry of Defence's Global Strategic Trends report, supplemented with interviews and workshops with policing stakeholders, academics and 'futures' practitioners. Our report contains practical resources which police forces can use to develop plans, strategies and capabilities which are grounded in an understanding of the potential challenges and opportunities for policing in the future.

The resources are:

1.         Ten trends likely to drive and define the character of policing's operating environment out to 2040. While the impact of each trend individually will be far-reaching, it is the convergence of multiple trends, often in hard to foresee ways, that will shape the challenges and demands facing policing in the future.

2.         Four scenarios for policing's future operating environment. A limitation of an exclusively trend-based analysis is that it can give too linear a view of the future, leading to an over-emphasis on continuity and under-emphasise potential shocks, surprises and disruptions (e.g. a pandemic). By forcing us to consider how – and why – things could become better, worse or broadly stay the same, scenarios increase our preparedness for the range of possibilities the future may hold.

3.         Five challenges which require policing's attention today. Each challenge will take up an increasing amount of policing's 'bandwidth' over the next 20 years, adding new layers of complexity to existing demands and raising important questions about how policing is organised, resourced and governed.

What are the ten trends shaping policing's operating environment out to 2040?









All of the resources have been designed to support strategic planning. For example, the development of robust and 'future-proofed' plans, policies and strategies relies on an understanding of how trends (past, current and future) may shape the outcomes of the decisions we make. Considering trends systematically can enhance our awareness of how things might change in the future, helping us to identify potential problems, manage emerging risks and capitalise on previously unseen or hidden opportunities.

What's next?

Over the next few months we will be holding a number of virtual events aimed at helping police forces to use these resources in their own strategic planning. Please get in touch (horizon.scanning@college.pnn.police.uk ) if you would like to attend one of these events.